Mr Dahlah sat at a street-side cafe. It was a beautiful hot summer day, the streets were noisy and crowded. The coffee was good, beans from southern Maldorn. The spicy biscuit had not been to their taste, and the recent troubles weighed heavily. Perhaps a cigarillo was in order.
It had not been the best of years as far as Dahlah was concerned. Their mother had died during the winter, she had drowned in her own fluids, hacking and wheezing day by day, hour by hour. Truthfully, it had been a mercy for both of them when she finally slipped into the lands of death.
That spring, Dahlah had two cousins show up and try to make claim to the small house and modest inheritance that mother had left. The situation had ended in a duel before the courts, neither of them were great at fencing, Dahlah had won, retaining the house and nearly ten thousand marks. Ottophie had been maimed in the duel, nearly lost their hand. It seemed unlikely he would be able to afford the services of a healer, deep damage to a limb was something only very gifted healers were able to mend. Since he had been a clerk for Keller Banking Consortium, it seemed he would be unlikely to retain his position, thus leaving him jobless.
Dahlah had been so very happy when word came from Lord Gainsly that they would be heading out a couple weeks earlier than usual. It meant being busy, chasing down the last of the cargo, replacing a teamster on short notice and generally not having to dwell on recent events.
Lord Gainsly’s caravan had headed out and the familiar pattern of being on the road and providing entertainment for the crew was very welcome. This had been their eighth year making the trip to GreenBridge with Gainsly. Their third since becoming an investing partner. Dahlah had made good money working with the caravan and then plenty more once they had become a partner. They had made so much money in fact, that had the cousins just asked, Dahlah would have been happy to help them.
The first quarter of the journey had gone well, a ways north of the Maldorn Border, Lord Horthram Rasken had joined the caravan, adding twenty wagons to the train. Spirits were high and everyone seemed happy, with the exception of Lord Gainsly’s daughter, Gellatherial. At the end of the northward journey the young woman would meet her future husband, something that had brought Gella to the verge of open rebellion against her father. Dahlah was sympathetic to the young woman’s plight but was smart enough not to get involved.
Then the bandits had attacked them a few days south of Cof Crossroads. As the caravan had grown in size over the years and the route became well established no one would have given credit to the idea that a force of over two hundred bandits could be lead in a concerted effort against them. All of them, Lord Gainsly, the partners and the crew, believed that they had become too big to be openly attacked by anything less than a professional army. Their biggest threat was sneak-thieves, folks creeping into camp during the night and making off with a few goods or some livestock.
The attack had left the majority of the caravan dead or captured, injured survivors had been left at a lumber camp in the care of a wild-haired hedge-witch, and again in Cof Crossroads with the Sisters of Mercy. Lord Gainsly had taken a blow to the head while in Cof, that had left him in a coma. The attack and the following week had been devastating. Dahlah had killed a lot of people during the attack, and the events following. The smell of charred fleshed haunted their nightmares.
In Carskot, nearly a dozen of the remaining caravan folk decided they were going to turn back and the local lord had claimed losses against Gainsly, demanding to be compensated. Despite having lost none of their own wagons, Dahlah was loath to pay the lord from their own funds. Thankfully they had some help escaping and Dahlah had since sent messages to Gainsly’s insurer and family, as well a message to Lord Hothram’s keep. Those messages had cost a lot, they had gone out by airship shortly before mid-summer, through the Roburns Trading Company. Since then, Dahlah had sent two more bundles of letters, mostly to Gainsly’s insurers, regarding claims made from merchants and guilds here in GreensBridge.
To all appearances, Lord Gainsly’s trading endeavour had come to an ignoble end.
Sadly, Dahlah’s woes had not ended though. Shortly after arriving in GreensBridge, they had learned that the local Tannican citizens had staged an uprising and sealed off the island that was the Tannican District of GreensBridge, controlling all the western traffic to the city. It had little affect on the trade goods that they had brought from West Port, but it meant they had no access to the House of Rashammon and the luxury items that Dahlah made most of their most profit from. The Tannican’s of West Port paid very well for imports from the Empire or Ragh Mohk Talh.
Related to the local uprising, there was an expectation that the Empire’s Armies would be on GreensBridge’s doorstep by mid-summer of the next year. Meaning the likelihood of small raiding groups along the river would be fairly high. Making it unlikely that insures would be willing to risk backing any trading expedition to GreensBridge next year. Not even considering this years losses.
Dahlah was not typically one to drink, and other than fine tobacco and a bit of coffee they really had no other vices, but increasingly over the last couple days, the idea of getting rip-roaring drunk and blowing off some steam was beginning to appeal. Though, in the past, that response to stress had usually made things worse.
Dahlah took a couple of last puffs from the cigarillo and blew a series of smoke rings, one passing through another. They had to soon figure out what to do with the remaining crew and whether they would return to West Port. The summer days would soon be gone.
A few days later, Dahlah was back at the Roburns Trading Company main warehouse. They were looking for one of three senior clerks, but had become lost in the maze of rooms and hallways of the upper level of the facility. There were plenty of people around, they had considered asking someone for directions, but were pretty sure if they kept going down this hall they would soon find the copy room.
Sure enough, after another turn they came to a set of opened doors and the room beyond had a number of large windows along one wall. There were eight clerks at small workstations copying files of some sort. A person sat at a bigger workstation overlooking the room. There were a couple of closed doors, one to either side of what Dahlah assumed to be the senior clerk’s desk. A few of the clerks looked up and after a curious glance or two returned to their work.
As Dahlah approached the larger workstation they noted that the two of them had similar taste in clothing. “Are you the supervising clerk?”
“Yes, senior clerk Addath. How may I help you?”
They checked each other out for a brief moment, Dahlah noted the low neckline and tight fit of the clothing, also that it was factory made, unlike their own handmade clothes. “I need nine copies of this letter. They all need to be verified by a law-speaker, they must match letter for letter. It’s a matter of insurance.”
“Ah, no problem. When do you need them for?”
“Sooner the better.”
“Well, I could get the copies done by tomorrow morning and have a law-speaker sign off on them by mid afternoon at the latest. Does that work for you?”
“That would be fine. I’ll want insurance on the original letter and it should be secured in a safe overnight.”
“Of course, give me a moment.”
Dahlah watched as Addath pulled some forms from a desk drawer, there was no doubt that Addath was projecting a strong femme attitude, and also no doubt that some part of her enjoyed showing it. The women of High Fort came to mind, though these day’s Addath’s look would be considered pretty tame in that city.
“Alright, I just need to collect some information from you.”
“Mr Dahlah. Partnered with Lord Gainsly of West Port. Of the same city.”
Addath jotted the information down on a scrap of paper, then said, “I heard that most of the caravan was lost. You must be the surviving partner.”
“Well of course you are, sorry. You must have lost people you were close to.”
Dahlah refrained from saying they preferred not to get close to people, instead said, “Yes, some of those people I had known and worked with for nearly a decade.”
“Have the insurers covered the losses?”
“Mostly, anything that was prearranged by the close of last year will be paid out. Wages and death settlements will be honoured up to the date of the initial attack. Speculative cargo, so long as it was documented previous to out departure from West Port will be partially compensated.”
“That’s not too bad really.”
Dahlah was becoming bored of the conversation, “Look, it’s all laid out in the letter. If you’re curious, give it a read.”
She scratched down a couple more notes, “Alright, Mr. Dahlah, will you be paying with marks or weight?”
“Weight, if the exchange is still the same as it was a few days ago.”
“It is. Will you need them delivered?”
As tempting as that offer was, Dahlah knew they needed to deliver the letters in person. “No thanks. I’ll handle it.”
“Alright, this is an itemized receipt, the total comes to twenty silver weight”
That was about what Dahlah had been expecting, they handed a small pouch to Addath, “There’s twenty three silver weight, keep the extra three as a tip, two for yourself and one for the scribes.”
She counted it out, “That’s very generous Mr. Dahlah, thank you.”
“So tomorrow afternoon then?”
“Yes, I’d say anytime after the fourteenth hour.”
“Good. Look, I came in through the front entry, is there a quicker way to the street?”
Addath smiled and gestured to one of the doors behind her, “Through that door, short hallway and then out the other end. Watch the steps, they’re pretty steep.”
Dahlah gave a nod and headed out.
Once back on the streets they headed south to the North Market. Dahlah took some time to wander by the kiosks and vendor’s tents. Not looking for anything specific, but hoping to find something that would make the return trip by land worthwhile. They had no intention of abandoning their wagon, a lot of money had been invested in it so far, including three pricey enchantments. Arrangements had already been made for another enchantment to be cast on the wagon over the coming winter, but that required getting the wagon back to West Port. Putting it on an airship was too expensive and they were unsure they could convince any of the others to make the return trip overland.
Copper was always an option, the price had continued to rise year by year over the past decade or so and after the High Fort mines had been tapped out the price had jumped up drastically. In Maldorn, copper had become more valuable than silver. Dahlah had collected copper on the way here and would do so on the way back to West Port, they could certainly take more, but what was really needed was high value, light weight cargo.